Growing up in New England, we enjoyed what were called “day trips.” Really, these summer road excursions never lasted all day even if you passed through three states in the process. Maybe it was the lousy roads or a car full of kids, but after maybe two or three hours of actual driving my parents would start looking for a motel with free “cawffee” in the room. My Kodachrome takeaway was that day trips were really excuses to stop for Reuben sandwiches, fried clam rolls and ice cream sundaes along with some swimming.
In Colorado, everything is bigger, from the mountains and skies to distances and smothered burritos. People here drive an hour just to get coffee on a particularly pretty patio. My true there-and-back day trips in Colorado tend to consume all the daylight hours and some of the dark ones, too.
In that spirit, I’m sharing a point-to-point Nibbles Summer 2017 Colorado Taste Trip. Buckle up. Don’t make me turn this car around. Who wants paczki?
Stop No. 1: Smoking at home
You will swear there couldn’t be a restaurant in this Aurora neighborhood, but then you see the smoke and catch the meaty aroma emanating from Ronald and Louella Brooks’ place: Brooks Smokehouse & Catering. On Fridays and Saturdays they serve takeout barbecue and you can hang out and eat in the backyard. The fall-apart brisket and ribs are wonderful, but don’t miss the Cajun-style smoked gator, corn maque choux and sweet coleslaw with pineapple. Tip: Sometimes they serve at festivals, so always call ahead.
800 Oakland St., Aurora, 720-297-0017.
Stop No. 2: Chilling with shaved snow
After that carnivorous experience, clear your palate with finely textured xue hua bing (or Taiwanese shaved snow) at Snowlab. Try the vegan green matcha tea-infused version or elevate it with a topping of sweetened condensed milk and mocha bits.
4360 E. Evans Ave., Denver, snowlabco.com
Stop No. 3: Monumental cheeseburger
It’s highly unlikely that Louis Ballast was first to top a beef patty with cheese at Colorado’s first drive-in restaurant. The site at 2776 N. Speer Blvd. in Denver is now a Key Bank, but in the parking lot is a small granite monument engraved thusly: “The cheeseburger trademark was registered by Mr. Ballast on March 5, 1935.” Take a moment to contemplate, then head to the nearby Jack-N-Grill for a Juarez Burger topped with cheese, ham, a grilled hot dog, fresh green chile, mayo and guacamole. Other toppings available.
2524 Federal Blvd., Denver, jackngrill.com
Stop No. 4: Spudnuts and krautburgers
A short highway excursion to Greeley will build your appetite for Red’s Dogs and Donuts. Appetizers are the Slavic classics: fruit-filled kolaches and krautburgers, dough-encased ground beef and cabbage. Red’s also fries spudnuts, extra-moist doughnuts made with potatoes. Appreciate the subtleties of a chocolate glazed before succumbing to a heavily glazed cherry fritter.
2608 11th Ave., Greeley, redsdogsanddonuts.com
Stop No. 5: Puffy paczki
Continue your doughnut research at the Royal Bakery. This old-school, full-service Polish establishment specializes in paczki, yeast-raised treats with creamy dough, jelly filling and a dusting of powdered sugar.
9606 Ralston Road, Arvada, royalbakeryco.com
Stop No. 6: Tom kha therapy
Now is the time to expand your consciousness. Go where the iron mouths eat at US Thai Cafe and order a bowl of chunky tom kha “Thai hot.” This assures that the chicken and veggies in a tart coconut broth will explode on your palate and cover your forehead in sweat. The beautiful pain will wash those doughnuts right out of your system.
5228 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater, 303-233-3345.
Stop No. 7: More melty cheese, please
If it is Wednesday, head to the Truffle Table because it’s “all-you-can-eat raclette” night. Simply put, raclette is fromage heaven. You melt great cheese on a tabletop heater and scrape it onto potatoes, pickles and other morsels. Tip: Pique your buds with sriracha caramel corn.
2556 15th St., Denver, truffletable.com
Stop No. 8: Recreational chocolate
It’s a long haul to Colorado Springs but a candy lifestyle experience awaits at Patsy’s Candies, dispensing sweets since 1903. There are free candy samples at this factory store — lots and lots of tastes of everything, including peanut butter nuggets, butter caramels, peanut brittle and chocolate fudge. The noisy backstage tour of the candy-making process is pretty cool and culminates at the cauldron filled with 2,500 pounds of liquid chocolate. Then there are more free samples.
1540 S. 21st St., Colorado Springs, patsyscandies.com
Stop No. 9: All things peachy
If it’s August, head to the wonderfully traditional Home Style Bakery for fresh peach pie, fried peach hand pies, peach muffins and peach-yeasted morning ring. If it isn’t August, the Grand Junction bakery sells Cherry Pie, Chocolate Creme Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie and many other varieties. Have a slice of each and judge the crust, filling, flavor and overall memorability. Discuss.
924 N. Seventh St., Grand Junction, homestylebakerygj.com
Local Food News
Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place will close at 2027 13th St. later this summer and reopen in a new location minus the brewery. … The closed Sushi Tora space at 2014 10th St. will be filled by Chimera, a new eatery from next door restaurateur Edwin Zoe and his mom of Zoe Ma Ma fame. … Coming soon: Verde Restaurant in part of the former Blue Parrot space in Louisville. … Boulder’s Hatch Lab hosts a workshop June 16 at Longmont’s McCauley Family Farm on fermenting hot sauces from local ingredients. Upcoming: Family Fermentation
(July 9). hatchlab.net/gather-hatch
Taste of the Week
Father’s Day is my favorite holiday, but I have noticed a disparity in how dads are treated. Yes, it’s wonderful to get single malt Scotch, football tickets, dangerous power tools and wood pellet smokers, but why is it that moms get all the chocolate, the food of the gods? Chocolatier Robin Autorino of Longmont’s Robin Chocolates understands our plight with her dude-worthy Father’s Day collection of filled chocolates flavored with spirits and craft ales. My manly favorites include the Oskar Blues Beerito version with candied serrano chile and the stellar sweet filled with Ricardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur from Lyons’ Spirit Hound Distillery.
Words to Chew On
“A person who observes the rules of proper nutrition is a person who should never be placed in charge of a barbecue.” — Dave Barry
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU, 88.5 FM. Podcasts: news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles.